Lawmakers to vote Thursday on $93.2B budget

budget talks
The new pandemic raises questions about remote legislative voting.

Lawmakers will vote on the upcoming state budget Thursday after the House and Senate convene at noon, legislative leaders announced Sunday evening.

The legislative bodies will convene for the exclusive purpose of voting on the General Appropriations Act (HB 5001,) the General Appropriations Act implementation (HB 5003) and a collective bargaining agreement (HB 5005.)

As of right now, the Legislature is not planning to hold remote votes on the upcoming budget despite ongoing threats regarding COVID-19. The Florida constitution does not currently contemplate such action. However, given the ongoing threat concerning the coronavirus and guidance from both state and federal health agencies to limit large gathering, including a CDC announcement Sunday to cancel gatherings of more than 50 people, Galvano’s office notes that there is now reason to explore changing laws to allow remote legislative voting in the future.

“However, as it relates to this vote, in the midst of a pandemic, I am not willing to risk a legal challenge that could prevent our budget from being promptly enacted,” Galvano wrote to Senators in a Sunday email.

“We will take significant precautions to mitigate the risks associated with group gatherings. Staffing for the sitting will be minimal and limited to those staff specifically designated by the Chief of Staff, Secretary, Sergeant, Majority Office and Minority Office,” Galvano continued.

In addition to limiting staff, Galvano is also canceling the traditional Sine Die celebration at the end of Session and is encouraging members of the public to avoid congregating in the public gallery and rotunda, though the Capitol will still be open.

The House, in part, will close its public seating galleries to visitors and is “excusing any member from attendance who has symptoms associated with the virus or who meets the criteria for being part of the higher risk population,” according to a memo Sunday from Speaker Jose Oliva.

“Senators who are showing any symptoms and those with underlying health conditions should contact the Chief of Staff regarding a requested absence,” Galvano said.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday recommended that in-person events of 50 or more people be canceled or postponed for the next eight weeks, though it said the recommendation “does not apply to the day-to-day operation of organizations such as schools, institutes of higher learning or businesses.”

The Florida House has 120 members, while the Senate has 40 members. Concerns about being exposed to the virus were evident Friday night during a House floor session.

“The notion of coming back here in a few days, after all of our members have had the opportunity to return home and do their jobs and mingle as best they can with their constituents and come back into what could be a large Petri dish by then is personally extremely daunting to me as we are moving into what may be the height of this crisis,’  Rep. Joe Geller said.

The fiscal year 2020-21 budget, which begins July 1, also includes budget requests from Gov. Ron DeSantis pertaining to ongoing efforts to prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The current Legislative Session is already operating overtime. The 60th day of the session, which is supposed to be the final day, came and went on Friday.

The spreading coronavirus led to last minute budget wrangling between the House and Senate including wishlist items, such as teacher raises, being pared down given gloomy forecasts calling for $300 million in reserves. The House also pared down its tax package reducing or eliminating some tax breaks to make room for coronavirus preparedness and response in the budget.

Even before the waning days, Oliva noted the virus could lead to economic hardships in the state as cancelations of major events mounted and more and more businesses began closing or reducing hours.

Lawmakers finalized budget negotiations this weekend. The budget requires a 48-hour “cooling off period” before the legislature can vote on it. Lawmakers are not meeting Tuesday due to Florida’s Presidential Preference Primary.


Content from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704